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AFTERNOON INFORMAL PLENARY SESSION

The afternoon session resumed with a last reference to the scope of the Conference and the answer of a coastal State to a distant fishing State who had claimed that reference to the high seas was not explicit in the General Assembly resolution. The Chair urged delegates once more to stick to the issues at hand and stay clear of jurisdictional matters. A delegate warned against the claim that has been made by some that coastal States are attempting to impose a dictatorship. While UNCLOS binds coastal States on the measures that they need to take, the Convention does not restrict this duty to the high seas. All States have a duty to cooperate, but compatibility of measures for conservation should give advantage to coastal States. Another State said that the search for a balance of interests is elusive and this question might be better addressed through a regional approach.

An NGO representative, speaking on behalf of several NGOs, said that a UN declaration laying out minimum standards should only be an interim measure to prepare the way for a legally-binding convention. She also urged that a distinction be made between the distant water fleets that provide for luxury markets in northern countries and the coastal States fisheries that contribute significantly to protein needs of their people. Another NGO said that the strictest EEZ regimes are models that should be followed. The Chair closed the debate by saying that he felt the discussion had been fruitful, although a vast gap is still apparent between the different views. He then introduced Section X of the text on the special requirements of developing countries, and highlighted that it was the result of last year's discussions on the topic. He said that developing coastal States need assistance if they are to participate in the conservation and management of marine living resources. In this respect, data and information on high seas stocks are not sufficient and must also be made available on the stocks within the EEZ of coastal developing States. Developing States also need assistance in settling disputes.

Several States commented on this section. It was highlighted that a fund should be created to assist developing States in matters other than the peaceful settlement of disputes. A developing State added that assistance should be applied to all aspects of conservation and management. This Conference needs to be seen within the context of UNCED and a link must be made between this Conference and the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. Although developing States have a strong interest in the conservation and management of these resources, it must be recognized that they will have difficulties implementing the general measures adopted. The measures should not transfer an undue burden to developing States. Several amendments were proposed to detail in what areas assistance is needed. A delegate said that access to markets would be more efficient than any other form of assistance.

It was argued that developing States should receive preferential access to areas adjacent to their high seas, but it was also understood that this access should not lead to overfishing. A delegate said that greater opportunities to fish would also carry a greater responsibility, both in the EEZ and on the high seas. References were made to the work of the CSD, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the FAO. As in Agenda 21, quantitative objectives should be defined to take into account the cost of application of various provisions.

The representative of an African State said that it was important that efficient enforcement and surveillance measures be set up to ensure that distant water States fully implement their obligations to developing countries. Local people, and women in particular, should be taken into consideration. Part of the objective should be to help developing States formulate national strategies for fisheries and to eliminate poverty and promote sustainable development. A delegate said that assistance could be channeled through successful regional arrangements and those communities that have joined their efforts.

A developed country representative said that many useful amendments had been made but that they needed to be examined carefully to ensure compatibility with other requirements of the text. All the delegates agreed that this was a crucial part of the Chair's document and that the special needs of developing countries must be taken into account. An NGO representative delivered a statement from the Women's Caucus in which she said that the text failed to take into account the crucial role women play in fisheries worldwide. The Chair agreed that his document did not reflect the fact that fisheries are gender-neutral.

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